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Board votes to close school

Conococheague Elementary School could close in 2006.

Conococheague Elementary School could close in 2006.

February 26, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to close Conococheague Elementary School in 2006.

The closing of the 42-year-old school off U.S. 40 is contingent on money being approved to renovate Maugansville Elementary to fill part of the void, and redistricting to accommodate the rest of the Conococheague students, said Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management.

"And we haven't even asked for that money yet," McGee said outside the meeting room after the vote. "But the worst that could happen is that the closure would just be delayed."

Tuesday night's vote capped years of studies, site assessments and public hearings on the matter.

During his presentation to the School Board Tuesday, McGee said many considerations led to the decision, not the least of which was the money needed to bring Conococheague Elementary up to par.

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The school has no public water/sewer, no air conditioning, no gymnasium and lacks many other necessary services such as handicapped accessibility, adequate fire protection and classroom space, McGee said.

Community residents had fought the closure, many saying they were happy with the school despite its physical plant shortcomings.

"We understand the apprehension caused by the possible closure of this school but we want a safe, inviting and cost efficient place where effective learning can take place," said Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan.

McGee said the closure process began in 1999.

"There has been a lack of adequate funding from (the Washington County Commissioners) for capital improvements," McGee said, noting that an earlier plan to close both the Conococheague and Maugansville schools and build a new elementary school was scrapped for that reason.

When the plan narrowed to closing Conococheague and renovating Maugansville, the cost savings were significant, he said.

Maugansville was chosen for the renovation because its site is more adequate for expansion, it has city water/sewer, and it is in an area more likely to have new development than Conococheague.

McGee said earlier that the School Board is looking at about four options for renovations for Maugansville Elementary, some of which would require demolition of more than 25 percent of the existing structure.

McGee said the school system has been fast-tracking the Maugansville renovation project, trying to complete the feasibility study and the project planning in one year.

The Maugansville renovation and Conococheague closing have been included in the school system's five-year Master Plan and Capital Improvement Plan.

The feasibility study for Maugansville renovations is expected to go before the School Board in March for a first review.

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